Starting pitcher Ponson agrees to one-year deal

Thursday, December 22, 2005

He was released by the Orioles after being arrested during the summer.

ST. LOUIS -- Pitcher Sidney Ponson agreed Wednesday to a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, three months after the Baltimore Orioles voided the pitcher's contract and released him.

Ponson's agreement with the Cardinals calls for a $1 million base salary and allows him to earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses.

Ponson had a $7.5 million salary last year under a $22.5 million, three-year contract. He was arrested Aug. 25 and charged with driving under the influence and driving while impaired. He served a five-day jail sentence last week for driving while impaired. Under a plea agreement, the charge of driving under the influence was dropped.

"Sidney has made it very clear to us that he is committed to turning both his life and his career around," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. "He's a tremendous talent who has made mistakes, but hes been making huge strides in trying to return himself to a much better quality of life.

"There were several teams interested in him, and we feel that our organization can provide him a solid basis for a fresh start if he is serious about turning his career around."

Ponson went to an alcohol rehabilitation facility in September and has been seeing a psychiatrist weekly.

"After my last problem, I sought help and didn't wait for anybody to push me," Ponson said. "I just did it on my own. Since the last time I had trouble I've been clean."

Baltimore released him on Sept. 6 and the team voided his contract, prompting a grievance from the players' association seeking he be paid the remaining $11 million called for in the Orioles' contract. The case is scheduled to be heard in March by arbitrator Shyam Das.

If the 29-year-old right-hander wins the grievance, the players' association probably would argue that he is owed the money from his St. Louis contract in addition to the Baltimore deal. Management, if Ponson prevails, likely would say that any money paid by the Cardinals should be offset against the Orioles' contract.

Ponson, 7-11 with a 6.21 ERA last season after being the opening day starter for the Orioles in 2004, could compete for a spot in the rotation vacated when Matt Morris left to sign with the San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals also have rookie Anthony Reyes under consideration for that spot.

"We signed him with that purpose in mind, based on his past career," Jocketty said. "It provides more depth to our rotation, more depth to our pitching staff, and that has been the priority of our offseason plan."

That surplus could enable the Cardinals to deal one of their starters, perhaps arbitration-eligible Jason Marquis, for a corner outfielder. They have openings in left and right field after Reggie Sanders left as a free agent and Larry Walker retired.

For now, Jocketty said the Cardinals have a "big six."

"I think the idea is to go to spring training and have a competition and see," Jocketty said. "What it does provide is some insurance if we feel Anthony is not ready."

Ponson, a native of Aruba, has a career record of 76-91 with a 4.81 ERA. But he has 28 complete games since 1999, fourth-best among active pitchers and was a 17-game winner in 2003.

Jocketty said the contract includes language pertaining to alcohol abuse but characterized it as "pretty common language."

Ponson was charged in January with driving under the influence in Florida, and he spent 11 days in an Aruban jail after he hit a judge during a Christmas Day fight at a beach in his home country.

Other moves

The Cardinals also agreed to minor league contracts with first baseman/outfielder Brian Daubach and pitcher John Riedling.

Daubach, who lives in nearby O'Fallon, Ill., appeared in 15 games last year for the New York Mets and batted .325 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs in 99 games at Class AAA Norfolk.

Riedling made 29 relief appearances for the Marlins last season and was 4-1 with a 7.16 ERA.

The Cardinals did not offer contracts to infielder Bo Hart and Scott Seabol, catcher Mike Mahoney and pitcher Mike Lincoln prior to Tuesday night's deadline. They also sent right-hander Rhett Parrott outright to Class AAA Memphis.

The 29-year-old Hart was the highest-profile player among those not offered contracts. He was 7-for-10 to start his career in 2003, getting his chance to start at second base and bat leadoff after injuries to Fernando Vina and Miguel Cairo.

Hart batted .277 in 2003 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 296 at-bats in 2003, but he appeared in only 11 games in 2004 and spent all of last season at Class AAA Memphis.

Mahoney, 33, split last season between Memphis and St. Louis, making most of his 21 starts while Yadier Molina was on the disabled list with a broken left hand.

Lincoln, 30, hasn't pitched since May 2004 due to a pair of elbow operations.

Seabol, 30, got his first extended chance in the major leagues because of a season-ending shoulder injury to Scott Rolen and batted .225 with seven RBIs in 23 starts.

Newly acquired outfielder Larry Bigbie agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract.

Bigbie, who will get a shot to replace Sanders in left field, hit a combined .239 with five homers and 23 RBIs for the Rockies and Orioles last year. Colorado acquired him for outfielder Eric Byrnes on July 29.

St. Louis obtained Bigbie from Colorado with second baseman Aaron Miles for reliever Ray King on Dec. 8, Bigbie's deal allows him to earn an has $50,000 in performance bonuses -- $25,000 each for 500 and 550 plate appearances.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: